The Hamas electoral victory

How should Israel respond? Yisrael Medad, Dore Gold, Shlomo Avineri, Uzi Arad and others comment.

hamas campaign 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
hamas campaign 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
Gershon Baskin: Hamas's victory is bad for Israel and bad for Palestine, but it is the voice of the people of Palestine. They have made their choice, and it was not just a choice of protest against Fatah, the PA and corruption. The vote reflects an attitude that negotiations produced nothing and violence brought about Israel's disengagement from Gaza. There is no guarantee that Hamas will go through a process of moderation, although new voices are being heard there. Israel cannot enter into any dialogue with Hamas until Hamas recognizes Israel's right to exist and denounces terrorism. If Hamas does move in that direction, it will take several years. The US and EU will probably freeze their payments to the PA, and Israel will also breach the Paris Protocol for transferring VAT and customs revenues to the PA. That, however, will not break the PA. Hamas will deal with its fiscal crisis by arranging for huge payments from the new allies in Teheran. Khaled Mashaal has already met with the Iranian president - last week - to arrange to receive some of the Iranian oil revenues. A Hamas government raises serious questions of whether or not there will be a partner for partitioning Israel/Palestine into two states. We may find ourselves doomed to losing the option of partition. There might be an unofficial hudna (temporary cease-fire) or tahdiyah (period of calm) - that is, one not negotiated with Israel. But Israel will be trapped by the lack of a partner on the Palestinian side. The only way forward for Israel may be a significant unilateral withdrawal from over 90% of the West Bank. Co-CEO of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information Ncoom Gilbar: The day before the election I drove past a procession of over 20 trucks, vans and vehicles bearing Hamas flags and posters, with tens of men sticking out of the windows and on the truck beds. The only thing that distinguished them from the worst gangs in Somalia or Syria was that they weren't waving guns - and that's only because they still have a modicum of fear of the IDF. We are doing everything possible to encourage terror and create a terrorist state in our midst. If we don't want a Hamas-controlled terror entity endangering the future of Israel, we have just 60 days - until our own elections - to admit our mistakes and reverse direction. Community activist, Shiloh Hanna Siniora: It is not a catastrophe. Though Hamas is a fundamentalist party its victory may be a blessing in disguise. We may have deceived ourselves about Fatah's prospects. Remember: Over the years the PLO was transformed; Hamas may also transform itself. It will have governmental responsibilities. It will, perhaps, use respected personalities [who are not outright Hamas members], including Fatah people, in their government. Hamas might follow the Turkish model of an Islamic party in power. There is an Islamic renascence throughout the region. So perhaps we need to accept and allow Islamist parties to put down democratic roots. Publisher of The Jerusalem Times - Yisrael Medad: Kowtowing, foremost, to American pressure, Israeli leaders created - first in Oslo, then with disengagement and now with these elections - a monster which claims democracy as self-justification. Further territorial concessions and a spineless diplomatic posturing will only worsen the situation. Yielding our rights is no solution. Spokesperson, Yesha Council Uri Savir: The victory of Hamas is a grave and dangerous development. It is a function of two weaknesses: the weak nation-building and anti-terror policies of the Palestinian Authority, and the weakness of Israel in not making peace - when we had the chance - with the moderates. Hamas, with its present policy, cannot be a partner to peace or to the international community. One should hope that with their new responsibility they will move toward more realism and moderation. At the moment, it doesn't seem very likely. First and foremost, this is a tragedy for the Palestinian people, who are now represented by a fundamentalist movement. As to Israel, we must reflect about unilateralist solutions. Hamas's victory should not trap us in a demographic disaster and an ongoing occupation. This aim should strengthen the Kadima Party's chances of winning the next elections; as Israelis we should prove that we, on our side, will vote for a realistic peace. Executive Director, Peres Center for Peace Moshe Feiglin: What produces terror? Is it the feeling of despair, or of hope? Since the Rabin and Arafat handshake the assumption has been that "despair" leads to terror, and that by giving [the Palestinians] hope of a state, and better economic conditions, the level of terror will soon dissipate. The failure of this assumption is obvious. More Israeli civilians have been killed in terror attacks in the past decade than in all the years after the War of Independence until Oslo. The heads of Hamas should send a big bouquet of flowers to Ariel Sharon's room at Hadassah Ein Kerem. His disengagement gave their people a very good reason to believe that terror chased the Jews out; and a real hope that continuing and increasing terror will lead to the final destruction of Israel. They chose the party that promised the most terror. Likud activist Gideon Greenstein: This is bad news, but it could have been worse. The bad news is a very clear Hamas victory. The worse news would have been a small victory for Fatah. A small victory would have meant that Hamas would be calling the shots but would have the immunity granted by Mahmoud Abbas's special status. Abbas was untouchable from the perspective of the international community, and he would have provided political cover for Hamas. With this victory, Hamas is exposed at all levels - it has a majority at the grassroots, municipal, and parliamentary levels. This crisis is a big opportunity for Israel to create a situation in which direct pressure is applied on the Hamas leadership to revisit its ideology and its association with terrorism immediately upon entry into power. They are as confused as we are and the international community is. The question is, which element will collect itself first? If Israel is the first to collect itself, it could rally the international community and catch Hamas unprepared. Nothing prepared Hamas for this victory. We should remember that in the next few days. Founder and president of the Re'ut Institute Dore Gold: Hamas is not just another Palestinian party. It is the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is still illegal in Egypt. In the Arab world the Muslim Brotherhood is viewed as the main precursor of all radical Islamist groups, including al-Qaida. Everyone knows that Osama bin Ladin's mentor, Sheikh Abdel Azzam, came out of the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood, and that Ayman al-Zawahiri (bin Ladin's second-in-command) once belonged to the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. Israel must therefore understand that this Hamas victory could lead to the emergence of a terrorist entity right next to its main cities. First and foremost, Israel must isolate the West Bank and not repeat the episode of the Philadelphi corridor, through which al-Qaida entered the Gaza Strip. It is absolutely imperative for Israel to retain defensible borders in the Jordan valley so that the forces of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi [head of al-Qaida in Iraq] in the east don't link up with Hamas in the west. President of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs Zevulun Orlev: The Hamas victory in the elections is a result of Israel's disengagement. The Palestinian public recognized that Hamas's suicide bombers and Kassam missiles convinced the Kadima-led disengagement government to uproot Jews from Gush Katif. The Palestinians expect Hamas to continue its attacks on Israel. MK, National Religious Party Abdel Malik Dehamshe: I have no doubt that Sharon could make peace with the Palestinians, and only Hamas can make peace with Israel. MK, United Arab List Effi Eitam: The new Hamas leader should send flowers to acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and the rest of his government, who instead of fighting terrorism decided to expel Jews from their land and prove to the Palestinian people that Hamas has defeated Israel. MK, National Union Gerald Steinberg: The outcome of the PA elections is likely to lead to greater internal instability and violence, as the various factions (Hamas, Fatah's Tunis generation and its "young guard") battle for control over resources and power. The chances of a newly-pragmatic Hamas emerging are very low; it is likely to follow the path of Hizbullah and the Taliban - meaning continued extremist Islamic ideology, rejectionism and terrorism. If EU, US and World Bank funding continue in the hope that this will change, Palestinians will see it as a great achievement. For Israel, the outcome means that it is necessary to prepare for greater chaos and anarchy, with very little chance of political compromise, even on limited issues; and a rethinking of the details of further unilateral disengagement. Director of Program on Conflict Management, Bar-Ilan University Shmuel Katz: It's a completely new situation. But remember, according to the road map - which I opposed - the Israeli government just has to sit tight and wait for Hamas to disarm. The government should now act in conformity with the road map's text. Of course, now the PA won't be asked to disarm Hamas - the PA will be Hamas! It will have to disarm itself. An interesting situation. Biographer, essayist and former MK Shlomo Avineri: Up till now Hamas has enjoyed the best of both worlds: enormous power but no responsibility. Israel wasn't able to vanquish it, and the Palestinian Authority could not - or did not want to - restrain it. I do not rule out that on assuming power Hamas may behave a bit like Hizbullah: ideologically obnoxious, but practically pragmatic. I am not sure it will occur, but stranger things have happened. In any case, the Hamas victory makes negotiations even less realistic, and strengthens the case for unilateral steps on the part of Israel as the only realistic option. Professor of Political Science, Hebrew University of Jerusalem Uzi Arad: However you look at it, this increase in Hamas's political strength came in the aftermath of Israel's disengagement from Gaza. A concession of territory without reciprocal concessions from the Palestinians rewarded those who could claim to have effected that withdrawal. The majority of Palestinians believe Israel's withdrawal was largely because of Hamas. This is a setback to peace, moderation and stability. It's a major challenge for the US, the Quartet and Israel, and for all those who have tried to pave the way for a peaceful resolution to the conflict. Personally, I am very, very saddened. Historically and politically, it's a very sad and troubling day. Founding Head of the Institute for Policy and Strategy